DJ ELLE DEE
INTERVIEW BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
DJ Elle Dee might exude an aura of glamour and cool beauty but the Brazilian turned New Yorker is really all about fostering a sense of fun where ever she plays and pursuing her undying love of music.
I first meet Elle at roof top art party at The New Museum on New York’s Lower East Side. Elle played an eclectic set that seemed to both set and match the tone of the room that night. I later caught up with her over a phone call where we talked about her beginnings, her love of music, and her plans for the future.
Elle is at the same time easy going, very open, and also razor sharp. Despite her late night career of non-stop DJ gigs Elle has somehow managed to find time to work on her own musical career. She is set to release her own tracks sometime in the fall of 2015.
Imagista: How did you end up coming to New York?
Elle Dee: I’m actually a journalist. I had my own independent art magazine in Brazil when I was 23 years old.
I came to New York with the plan of learning english then returning to Brazil after a few months but that short stay has now turned into eight amazing years of living here.
Imagista: Do you spend much time in Brazil?
E.D: I sometimes go back for vacation but I’ve really only gone back about 5 times in eight years. I try to visit other countries. I go to Europe.
Imagista: What do you think of, what some might describe as a Brazilian wave, in NYC?
E.D: I’m not really the right one to ask. I actually don’t have a lot of Brazilian friends in New York. Most of my friends are either from here or somewhere else in world. I have a few friends living in Brazil still though of course.
Imagista: How did you first get into DJ’ing?
E.D: DJ’ing started as a hobby when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I always loved playing vinyl. I only played rock then. It was just a fun thing to do.
I never imagined that it would become a full-time job though. Never. Not even when I first arrived here. I was super involved in writing and writing music though but hadn’t started DJ’ing yet. DJ’ing was just something fun to do at my friend’s house.
A good friend of mine, who is now a huge DJ in Brazil, taught me a lot. I went out and bought some equipment but even then it was just for fun. That was in Brazil.
Then when I moved here I couldn’t really speak English. So playing out as a DJ was a way in which I could make a living without actually having to talk to anyone (laughs).
My friend Sophia Lamar took me out and introduced me to a lot of different people in New York City. That was in 2007.
Then I started playing at all these places in the Lower East Side and little bars. I started playing out all the time and gradually getting better and better. I guess practice makes perfect. I started exploring different types of music and I fell in love with DJ’ing.
Being a DJ is a full-time job for me. I play out three or four nights a week on average.
Imagista: How would you describe your approach to DJ’ing?
E.D: It all depends on the situation. Sometimes I open for a band or play to a late night dance crowd at a club, or maybe it’s a gig out in Montauk. What I play really depends on the specific venue or audience. And things like the time that I’m playing, or even the weather outside: these things can all make a difference in terms of the mood of the crowd and therefore what I play. There’s a lot of subtle elements that will affect the music that I choose to play. I rarely leave my house knowing in my mind what I’m going to play that night.
As a DJ you try to read the crowd and you go from there…
Imagista: But in terms of your own personal preferences?
E.D: I started out as a rock DJ and I still do that sometimes. For example, I am opening for the Flaming Lips soon, so of course I’ll play rock.
In the city and I have a few parties where I’ll play deep house and nu-disco sets…but it really depends. I really like many different styles of music. For example sometimes I’ll even play a Brazilian funk track.
I always try to keep it fun though, and danceable, even when I play rock.
Imagista: So if you weren’t a DJ what do you think you be doing?
E.D: (laughs) Making music! That’s what I’m already doing and that’s what I’d like to be doing. So music is my answer.
I started playing drums when I was 12 years old. Now I play also guitar and sing.
So music keeps me very busy (laughs). I love my job. I love music. I really can’t see myself doing anything else.
Now I’m working on my own music project. That’s super exciting for me!
Imagista: We can’t wait to hear your own music. And as soon as it comes out we’d love to talk to you about that.
E.D: Yes, that would be amazing!
DJ: Elle Dee
Photographer: Lynda Churilla
Interview: Michael Williams
Digital Imaging: Becky Siegel